10 thought-provoking social, tech and business predictions for 2019

Rob Bernshteyn Profile picture for user Rob Bernshteyn January 3, 2019
2019 is already shaping up to be a tumultuous year. Coupa CEO Rob Bernshteyn offers 10 thought-provoking predictions that span social, tech and business

Open road into sunset sky with 2019 arrow © Rasica - shutterstock
I love thinking about and making predictions. The very concept arouses a sense of anticipation and excitement about what lies ahead. Most would likely agree that the backdrop for 2019 will be one of turbulent markets and geo-political uncertainty, with a steady continuation of technology advancements impacting our professional and personal lives. With that in mind, here are some of my predictions for what we’ll see in the year ahead.

1. The dawn of global collaboration begins

There is value in defending yourself with a spear. There is even more value when you have a whole tribe of people with spears. But the ultimate value creation comes when there is no need for spears! As many leading nations have pushed for greater isolation over the last few years, the harsh, practical effects of separation will come home to roost, and in many cases, they will begin to drive re-engagement and collaboration.

Look to see the dawn of a longer arc of authentic re-engagement, even as political and business tensions ebb and flow. Smaller coalitions and communities of all sorts will begin to emerge and will start to put us back on the path toward broader peaceful global collaboration and collective consciousness. These early steps in 2019 will begin to move society toward solving our most pressing global challenges in the years to come.

2. The immigration debate comes to a head

Business communities will start to meaningfully influence the current fiery immigration narrative in 2019. From the Trump administration’s views on immigration, to Brexit’s labor consequences, to arguments over the wages and rights of migrant workers, the immigration debate will come to a head. The willingness of corporate leaders to publically voice strong positions on immigration reform will put increased pressure on governments to pass major immigration legislation reform and embrace policies that consider the inherent value immigrants bring to businesses and society at large.

3. The talent war is won through values

Beyond immigration, the value of human capital is a theme that corporations will be forced to focus on even more thoughtfully in 2019, particularly given the unemployment rate is at a 50-year low. To avoid an arms race of blindly spending on inconsequential perks, companies will have to become unambiguous when recruiting talent, targeting workers whose values align with their own. Leading companies will avoid short-term thinking and seek talent they can retain for years, instead of paying a high price for workers who may jump ship at the next seemingly better opportunity. Ultimately, the war for talent will be won by companies whose core values are most strongly aligned with the values of their employees.

4. The gig economy thrives

In addition to focusing on more thoughtful hiring, companies will employ agility, flexibility, and creativity to fill talent gaps. As many companies look to improve profitability by concentrating on frugality, they will revisit their employee compensation costs and look for ways to optimize their human resources strategies. Within this context, contingent workforces and the gig economy will play an even greater role in the full human capital equation, and organizations will look for ways to easily and comprehensively manage the full contingent workforce lifecycle. Modern and intuitive information technology solutions will play a key role.

5. Operational efficiency comes back into vogue

With turbulent markets in 2019 and various political logjams across the US, Europe, and Asia, we’ll see continued economic and political uncertainty, and as a result, less predictable revenue growth. This will refocus companies on being smarter, modern, and streamlined in how they manage themselves. Leading cloud technology solution providers who understand how to create measurable customer value will rightfully benefit. The result will be improved operational efficiencies and relative profitability for those companies that get ahead of the pack in their industries.

6. Community data unleashes the power of AI

As the development of artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities continues to blossom, its purpose will increasingly be tied to delivering measurable impact. Access to greater stores of timely and relevant data will drive the fidelity of that impact. Forward-thinking companies will leverage new opportunities to extract value from mass volumes of community data in ways we weren’t able to before.

For example, when applied to how companies manage their spending, community intelligence will deliver meaningful insights on where and how to best spend company money compliantly and while managing risk. Community driven intelligence will provide a huge competitive advantage to those that contribute and learn from the communities they join.

7. Security and fraud fears ripen

Data breaches and fraud will grow, and companies will focus on getting smarter to stay ahead of risks. Estimates show that typical organizations lose 5% of annual revenues to fraud each year with the annual cost running into the billions, and most still don’t have the technologies they need to proactively identify and prevent risk. In both B2C and B2B, we’ll see incidents of fraud and hacks become more prominent business concerns in 2019.

Security will become a priority for all areas of virtually any business including supplier and employee fraud. Companies will need to get smarter about deploying the right tools and policies to address fraud proactively, at all levels. Companies with thorough security and fraud prevention practices and associated technologies will benefit from improved business results and retention of their brand promises.

8. Sustainability attentiveness goes mainstream

A focus on sustainability will finally make its way into mainstream corporate consciousness, in part driven by the requests of employees themselves. Companies will take early, yet meaningful steps in developing internal sustainability awareness programs and will put in place strategies to transform. These steps will support the reduction of negative environmental impacts and improved energy utilization. Cloud computing will play a key role in this crusade, as leading companies look to decrease their heavy legacy technical footprint.

9. Compliance proves a tough pill to swallow

Companies will struggle with a host of compliance issues around data privacy, data control, and much more. Because of changing domestic policies and international trade agreements in 2019, companies who’ve globalized and become truly multinational will be at greater risk of being out of compliance in local jurisdictions. Broad-based compliance will require centralized control with highly agile decentralized execution. Business technology providers will have to offer more proactive, preventative, and agile solutions to keep up.

For example, in the area of business spend management, we’ll see continually evolving global invoicing compliance regulations and a host of new rules for how taxes around payments are managed and settled. Companies with well thought through compliance processes and agile systems will avoid public scrutiny and make it through this rough terrain.

10. Technology is no longer for technology’s sake

Technology will continue to play an ever-increasing role in our personal and business lives, regardless of industry dynamics. But competitive pressure on major technology companies will force them to focus on providing greater measurable and sustained customer value in order to win. Between downward-trending stocks and competition from the latest established and credible contenders, these companies will face greater pressure than they have in years.

The largest and most valuable companies will continue to respond by accelerating their acquisition roadmaps in an effort to retain their positions as industry titans. But ultimately, whether large and developing, the companies that thrive will be the ones who have a sharp, maniacal focus on providing measurable customer value and base their primary decisions on how they can keep increasing customer value over time. Those companies that deliver the greatest continual customer value will rule their industries in the longer term.

A grey colored placeholder image